ohn Squire is a very private man. During the six years since The Stone Roses split so acrimoniously his voice has been conspicuous by its absence from the discussions surrounding the band’s problems and legacy. Even during the promotional tour of duty for the misguided and long-forgotten Seahorses project, Squire managed to avoid speaking out either in interview or song about his previous group. After five years of dignified silence in the face of speculation and accusation, John Squire is ready to speak out in the only way he ever could, through his music.
The first thing that strikes you about Time Changes Everything is Squire’s vocal style. Like Dylan or solo-Lennon, he sings in a curious non-voice, booze-soaked and northern, his enunciation weary and slurred. The second thing that strikes you is how mature and understated the record is, an unsurprising revelation when you consider that Squire is now close to 40. The sun-kissed pop and electrified voodoo of The Stone Roses is largely vanished, replaced by ‘70’s FM-radio Americana, Squire’s accomplished guitar playing and Simon Dawson’s earthy and layered production the only things dragging this set of blues-inflected country songs out of the past.
In many ways Time Changes Everything is a love song to Squire’s past. Even the cover art references The Stone Roses via a paint-splattered goat skull. Several of the songs deal explicitly with the music, the times and the people that comprised The Stone Roses’ story. “15 Days” is a third-person tale narrating the Roses heyday, painting the band as naïve troubadours aiming for the heights of The Byrds and the Pistols, and who could never “be shallow / repetitive careerist fools”. “I Miss You” is clearly sung for Squire’s ex-best friend, an open apology in song. It is apparent that Squire’s six-year silence wasn’t because he wanted to distance himself from the legacy of The Stone Roses, but rather because he wanted to preserve their myth and memory with some dignity. This quiet nobility and humility, together with the neo-Marxist sentiments expressed in the sweet protest-cum-love song “All I Really Want”, suggest that the subtle revolutionary politics expressed by The Stone Roses were deep-rooted and sincere.
Sadly, there’s no escaping the fact that Squire’s solo debut is a one-paced, uni-directional affair. His guitar playing is much less pyrotechnic than on Second Coming, though often still sublime, and much of the material here finds itself sinking into the subdued country-blues mire that Squire has chosen to plough. What these songs are perhaps lacking is outside input, the influence of a vocalist who could take some of the attention away from Squire and allow him to play rather than sing. And it’s that singing voice that will determine how most people view this album, because Squire is most definitely a musician first, an artist second, and a vocalist third. It is a voice that will either be tolerated or loathed, which is a shame, because when Squire’s songs hit the mark head-on such as on the hero-worshipping album opener “Joe Louis”, the cracks in his voice quickly fade from view.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01